Beijing’s city government on Sunday introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of COVID-19, as China’s capital continued to report new local cases just two weeks from hosting the Winter Olympics.
Beijing Olympics organizers said on Sunday they had confirmed 72 cases of COVID-19 among 2,586 Games-related personnel entering China from Jan. 4 to 22, with no cases among 171 athletes and team officials arriving in that period.
Final preparations are taking place for the Winter Games amid a global surge in cases of the highly infectious Omicron coronavirus variant. The Games are set to take place from Feb. 4 to 20 inside a “closed loop” bubble that separates all event personnel from the public. Of the confirmed cases, 39 were found in testing at the airport and 33 inside the loop, organizers said.
Beijing’s Fengtai District — where China’s National Health Commission reported six locally transmitted cases on Saturday — will organize COVID-19 tests for all of its two million residents, district health authorities said.
Authorities have asked residents of “risky areas,” including a neighbourhood of Fengtai, not to leave the city, a local government spokesperson said at a Sunday news conference, adding that Fengtai residents have been asked to avoid mass gatherings.
Beijing city has also asked residents to proactively conduct nucleic acid tests if they find themselves with COVID-19-like symptoms within 14 days of receiving any deliveries from overseas, local authorities said in a statement dated Saturday.
China had urged people to wear masks and gloves when opening mail, especially from abroad, after authorities suggested the first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus found in Beijing could have arrived via a package from Canada, a claim experts say is not based on science.
In recent weeks, cities across China have imposed tougher measures to control new outbreaks of COVID-19, a task that has taken on extra urgency ahead of the start of the Olympics.
Many cities have advised residents to stay put or are requiring travellers to report their trips days before their arrival.
China reported 56 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, down from 63 cases a day earlier, according to the national health authority.
The National Health Commission said 19 of the new cases were locally transmitted, down from 23 a day earlier, and the rest were imported.
What’s happening across Canada
With lab-based testing capacity deeply strained and increasingly restricted, experts say true case counts are likely far higher than reported. Hospitalization data at the regional level is also evolving, with several provinces saying they will report figures that separate the number of people in hospital because of COVID-19 from those there for another medical issue who also test positive for COVID-19.
For more information on what is happening in your community — including details on outbreaks, testing capacity and local restrictions — click through to the regional coverage below.
You can also read more from the Public Health Agency of Canada, which provides a detailed look at every region, including seven-day average test positivity rates, in its daily epidemiological updates.
In Ontario, health officials said 3,797 people with COVID-19 were in hospital on Sunday, down by 229 from the day before. Of those patients, 604 were in intensive care, up by four from Saturday.
The province reported 5,833 new lab-confirmed cases and 56 additional deaths.
The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table is calling on the government to change the definition of the term “fully vaccinated” from two doses to three, even though Premier Doug Ford said this week his government wasn’t yet planning to do so.
Quebec had 275 patients in ICUs on Saturday, an increase of 10 from the previous day. A total of 3,295 people with COVID-19 were in hospital, a decrease of 56 from the day before.
Hundreds of restaurant owners in the province are considering reopening in defiance of public health measures.
During a briefing on Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said despite signs of stability in patient numbers in some provinces, the toll on hospitals remains heavy and many hospitals across the country are under intense strain. More than 10,000 people with COVID-19 were being treated in hospitals each day in the past week, surpassing peak daily numbers in all previous waves of the pandemic.
In British Columbia, due to record-high hospitalizations, COVID-19-positive hospital patients are being placed in the same room with double-vaccinated people who do not have the virus, provincial health officials said.
In the Prairies, a northern First Nation in Manitoba is facing criticism for its lockdown measures after a group of mothers left to buy groceries on Thursday and an attempt was made to prevent them from returning to the community. In Saskatchewan, the chief medical health officer says COVID-19 hospital numbers could rise to as high as 300 to 500 or more in the next few weeks due to the high Omicron infection rate. In Alberta, a group of Calgary moms is fundraising in an effort to supply 115,000 school staff members with N95 masks.
In the Atlantic provinces, the test positivity rate in Newfoundland and Labrador dropped from 21.4 per cent on Friday to 15.8 per cent on Saturday; Prince Edward Island registered its fifth COVID-19 death since the start of the pandemic; New Brunswick recorded six additional deaths; and Nova Scotia says there are 82 people in designated COVID-19 hospital units, including 11 people in intensive care.
In the North, Northwest Territories health officials say its modelling suggests the peak of the Omicron wave “may have already passed mid-January” in the territory, Yukon has confirmed its 16th virus-related death and Nunavut reported 35 new cases and a weekly test positivity rate of 30.2 per cent.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 349.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.59 million.
In Asia, South Korea posted its second highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, despite extended restrictions and a high vaccination rate, raising concerns of further spread during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
The country recorded 7,630 new cases on Saturday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said, above the 7,009 reported a day earlier and near the mid-December record logged.
South Korea in mid-January extended tougher social-distancing rules for three weeks, including a 9 p.m. curfew for restaurants, cafés and bars, and limits on private gatherings.
In Europe, Russia on Sunday reported a new high in COVID-19 infections confirmed in the past 24 hours as the Omicron variant of the virus spreads, the government coronavirus task force said.
Daily new cases jumped to 63,205 from the previous record of 57,212 a day earlier. The task force also reported 679 deaths.
In Belgium, police fired water cannons and tear gas in Brussels on Sunday to disperse protesters marching against COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions.
The march followed demonstrations in other European capitals on Saturday that also drew thousands of people protesting vaccine passports and other requirements that European governments have imposed in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic.
In Brussels, demonstrators chanted “Liberty!” as they marched.
White-helmeted police riot officers later sought to disperse protesters, who ignored instructions broadcast over loudspeakers that the demonstration was finished and that they should leave.
In the Americas, the world-famous Carnival festivities in Rio de Janeiro will be held in late April rather than the final weekend of February, as the number of coronavirus cases in Brazil spikes and the Omicron variant spreads.
In the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealanders are set to face new COVID-19 restrictions after nine cases of the variant were detected in a single family who were on a flight to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Sunday.
The heightened measures, going into effect on Monday, include mask wearing and limits on gatherings. Ardern said businesses can remain open, and people can still visit family and friends and move freely around the country.
In Africa, the World Bank has approved a loan of $750 million US to South Africa linked to COVID-19, aiming to help protect the poor and support economic recovery from the pandemic, the National Treasury said.